Pulling One’s Head In

The Chinese year of the dog started last Friday. I have never been a big CNY person. I enjoy the “tuan nian” dinner when everyone would back in the home of the eldest living person of the extended family, on the eve and a big dinner happens, with a spread big enough to break a large dining table. Other than that, there is little else I enjoy about the festivities.

So, I went along with a couple of cursory elements such as dressing up in shades of red when Tress asked me to and going to a dinner at U Jin’s notwithstanding that was way yonder in Point Cook.

That dinner was on Sat night and Tress and I had spent the morning cleaning up the garden. Tress did loads of clearing up around the herbs area, where weeds had started to take over. I did my usual trimming, mowing and sweeping, along with a bit of mulching. Tress had made a cake earlier and so all we had to do was to make a salad. U Seng messaged us to get a ride so we stopped by his place en route to PC.

There were a bunch of people at the dinner, mostly extended family on Tress’ side. There were a few people from Marina’s (U Jin’s daughter) café. There was a lot of eating and laughing so that was really nice. David (Tress’ cousin) and Jessica his partner, sort of became a centre of attention somewhat, as most of us realised for the first time, they were expecting a baby. We were soon talking about the baby, including whether David, who is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, was going to be the doctor in charged. Of course he was never going to be that, with the whole thing pregnant with conflict galore. Tress and I also talked to and got to know Jessica, who is German, a little bit better.

We left U Jin’s just after 11pm and just when we were a few minutes from arriving home, we got a call from Auntie Pin, who told us Tress had left her phone behind. So we had to organise to get it back the next day and thankfully Marina offered to take it back with her to her apartment in Docklands.

So the next day after St Alf’s we trekked into the city on the metro, met with Marina in an apartment in Docklands which she was checking out to buy, and picked up the phone. We then wanted to head to Hawker Chan, a Singapore Michelin Star winner for hawker food, on Lonsdale Street. We had to snake our way through thick crowds on Little Lonsdale and Russell Street, which was closed to vehicle traffic (only food traffic allowed) to host Chinese New Year stalls. Hawker Chan had a long queue outside, so we headed to another joint before doing some window shopping in the city.

We headed home just before 4, did some grocery shopping and then went home and walked the little fellow. Later as Tress started preparing the morning brekky for today, the cricket on the oval finished but the players had a celebration of sorts in the clubhouse. There was Bollywood music blaring from the clubhouse and as the clubhouse was only about 200-300m from our home, it was loud enough to be a distraction in our home.

As I closed the windows to reduce the noise, I asked myself what has happened to the Australia we came to, all those years ago. When I first came to Sydney back when Bob Hawke was PM, it took a few months but then I fell in love with Australia. I have always loved living here since that time. Australians, as far as I understand, work hard, hate making a fuss of anything, preferred to laugh away most things thus earning that laidback persona now well known in most circles all over the world. We’d be as quick to tell someone to pull his head in – ie don’t make too much of a fuss of anything – as we’d be to check ourselves so as to stay quiet. It is a lesson I find myself needing to learn over and over again, as I seek to overcome my impatient fault-finding self. We also love our wide-open spaces where we’d wander along to find our own nooks and corners to enjoy peace and quiet. We hate a scene and we hate behaving like seagulls or galahs, making unnecessary ruckus of anything. Other than at sporting events or rock concerts, we hate crowds and loud noises.

So when I think of the arvo I had – one where Chinese New Year brought noise, crowd and mayhem on the streets in the city and where cricket teams made up mostly of people of Indian descent blare loud music in an oval clubhouse located in a quiet residential area – I wondered what people who treasured peace and quiet like I do, must have thought about what has become of this country.

The laidback Aussies would probably not say much about such new phenomena in our backyard. We’d pull our heads in and find another quieter spot. This country is still big enough. I wonder if that partly explains why in the past year, I’ve looked at making a “tree-change”, seeking to move away and into quieter pockets here in Melbourne.



In recent months, I’ve turned on the sprinkler on the front lawn, about an hour before sunset. I’d leave it on for about 20 minutes. Yesterday, while the sprinkler was spitting, a couple of magpies descended onto the lawn. They stood under the showers, apparently having a wash. Even if you’re free as a bird, you need the occasional wash, it would seem.

Tress home

Tress came home on Sat. I had spent the day cleaning the house, spread out over two sessions. I vacuumed and wiped down the front of the house in the morning, before heading off to the red cross blood service in Ringwood.

The Red Cross Blood Service had sent out notices on a shortage of plasma and I had responded towards the end of last year. I was surprised you could donate plasma in short intervals, unlike whole blood which requires a break of a few (3) months. Plasma you could do every month, and there is no interruption even if you visited a country like Malaysia recently – something which would disqualify you from whole blood donation for a few (4) months. Plasma separated and collected, I tucked in to some party pies and mini sausage rolls right there, before heading home to continue the cleaning process.

House cleaning done, I did a quick grocery shopping before heading home to give the little guy a walk.

Then I caught a bit of a shut eye before heading to the airport to get Tress.

Alexandra parade and the start of M3 were undergoing some road maintenance work so traffic was crawling and we finally got home just after 12. We were both very tired but needed to, after some quick unpacking, settle down with a drink – I had my wine while Tress had her beloved Milo. I finished watching the Spurs v Gunners game before going to bed way past 1am.

We skipped St Alf’s the next day, having slept in till about 9am. We basically stretched out to unwind the past 2-3 weeks’ tensed up visit to Malaysia and all the trimming that came with that episode, before heading out to a late lunch and coming home to cook the week’s meals.

Tress took the little guy across the house to the oval for a walk as I finished up with the cleaning post cooking. It was a lovely cool evening and it was really nice walking in that condition. I think the little guy enjoyed his walk even more now that Tress is back.

LBJ wasn’t the only one pleased to have Tress home. It’s been really good with Tress back. For the umpteenth time, I confirmed I am no good alone without her around.

Weekend alone, work joys

I woke this morning to a wonderful photo of Tress’ family over dinner together last night. Her dad looked a little tired but he is otherwise on the mend. We discussed her return dates yesterday and at this stage it looks likely she’ll be back this weekend. That would be great as it has been horrible without her around.

On Friday night I took a walk and ended up having some pub grub. The live band played some Paul Kelly numbers so that was nice.

On Saturday, after a futile visit to the local Bunnings (they didn’t have the line trimmer cords I needed), I immersed myself into work tidying up the outside – I worked single-mindedly on the hedges, at one point taking some risks and nearly fell off the ladder. I had to place the A-frame ladder parallel to the hedges and it wobbled and threatened to tip over. A desperate grabbing of some rough and large pittosporum trunks saved me from a fall which at my age, would have been dire indeed. I ploughed on after that and completed the trimming, mowing and sweeping routines before continuing to scrub some bird droppings off the deck, and finally moving on to wash the MX5. Late that same arvo, having scrubbed off and walked LBJ, I took the glistening MX5 for a drive and it provided temporary relief from being alone without my better half.

Sunday after St Alf’s I headed to the local supermarket, got some stuff for another toastie meal, and went home to make another sandwich meal.

Then it was laundry and then off to the library – I had finished the book on Charles Bean Kiddo gave me and there was nothing to read at home. I picked up a fiction piece this time (Tom Winton) – and headed home, prepared for the work week, and took the little guy for his walk.

Interspersing all the activities with WhatsApp video calls with Tress was both very nice and disruptive – when there were no chores left to do, those calls were exactly what I needed.


Last Friday a colleague came up to my desk and told me he had resigned. An intelligent guy who managed some key accounts, he was well liked and respected and I enjoyed working with him. So it was a sad piece of news.

He must have been the 20th or so person I worked with who has parted ways with the company. Like many before him, he joined the company after me so I guess it is a testament of the sort of future this company promises for its employees, that so many have such short tenures – they seem to leave the first chance they get.

I’m just continuing to put my head down and plough away. I have worked up a routine – I don’t know if I like it or not. I have come to think that the idea of work satisfaction/enjoying what you do can be overrated or overplayed. Most work require application/industry/just plain rolling up your sleeves and working on stuff. Whether that is enjoyable or brings satisfaction is a distant secondary consideration.

I have a routine which sees my days utilised doing work which helps an organisation manage it legal risks. That routine helps my days pass easier and I earn a living out of it. Those are easily and by far the more important factors than whether I enjoy doing what I do. Often, satisfaction is derived not from performing the task per se but from being gritty and staying the course to complete the task.